By: Joe Strupp
Paul Steiger, the Wall Street Journal’s managing editor, said reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, had also admitted killing former Journal reporter Daniel Pearl brought back powerful memories of Pearl’s horrific death, and serves as a reminder of the dangers overseas journalists face.
Steiger also urged that Mohammed be prosecuted fully, but stopped short of calling for his execution. “I think that he should be prosecuted under appropriate laws, he should be put in a position not to do this again,” Steiger told E&P. “But I don’t express an opinion on what that should be.”
His comments followed reports that Mohammed confessed to the Sept. 11 attack and a chilling string of other terror plots during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a transcript released Wednesday by the Pentagon.
In a section of the statement that was at first blacked out, he confessed to the beheading of Pearl, The Associated Press reported. Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Pakistan while researching a story on Islamic militancy. Mohammed has long been a suspect in the killing.
“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan,” Mohammed is quoted as saying in a transcript of the military hearing released by the Pentagon. “For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head,” he added.
Steiger said the Journal had previously reported Mohammed’s suspected involvement in the beheading.
“Several years ago, we reported that he had told U.S. authorities that he was the one, so it is no surprise,” Steiger said. “That doesn’t make it any less horrific.”
But he also said that Mohammed’s confession must be taken with at least some skepticism. “We don’t know the circumstance of what he is saying,” Steiger said. “You don’t know what might be boasting, what might be coercion.” Indeed, he confessed to a suspiciously long string of terrorist attacks and other crimes.
Still, Stegier stressed that it was a reminder of the terrible tragedy that was Pearl’s death. “What a great loss he was,” Steiger said. “It reminds us how dangerous a place the world has become.”
He added that he is reminded of Pearl’s death every day when he comes to work. “When I get off at my floor, I look at the Daniel Pearl memorial, there is no forgetting that,” he said. “Unfortunately, Danny was the first of many, many journalists killed in the broader conflict, in Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere, between radical Islam and Westerners.”